Making Search Engines Work for Education Resources

John K. Waters, University of Manchester, Feb 20, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This article unwittingly makes the case both for and against the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI). The idea of such an initiative is to help educators find resources to support learning either in the classroom or online. But this, we are told, is very difficult. "Try this for information overload: Open your favourite browser, and in the search box type 'multiplying fractions.' In about a quarter of a second, you'll find yourself buried in more than 4 million results. Four million." Sounds daunting, right? But I modified the query slightly, to "how to multiply fractions" and got 812,000 results. Still sounds bad? No - every one of the results on page 1 was a perfectly good explanation of how to multiply fractions. The problem for LRMI is that it's pretty hard to improve on that, and it's not clear that it's necessary. Indeed, that's why the next step in online learning was to evolve from assigning resources, as they do in traditional learning, to enabling learner choice, as we do in MOOCs.

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